When your elderly loved one has just been diagnosed with dementia, they are likely to be overwhelmed by a range of emotions. Coming to terms with the knowledge that they have a progressive degenerative condition takes time, and they will need your support if they are to move forward with a positive attitude.
Expect a range of emotions
Everyone reacts differently to the knowledge that they will be living with dementia for the rest of their life, and there is no right or wrong way to behave. Your loved one is certain to be upset by the diagnosis, and this can manifest as anger, or even rage, as they wonder why this has happened to them.
They will almost certainly feel a sense of sadness and loss, and it’s essential that you and other family members are prepared to listen to their worries and concerns in a non-judgmental way.
Encourage your relative to discuss the diagnosis with you, and make a note of any questions that you don’t have the answers to so that you can seek advice to put their mind at rest.
It can be helpful if they write down their concerns, fears and worries, so that you can go through the list together, and discuss their feelings with them. Some people find it helpful to keep a journal that they can refer back to later, while others find it therapeutic simply to set out their concerns in writing.
Get up-to-date information on dementia
You’ll find that there is plenty of support available, both online and in your local area, but you will need to seek it out. The first port of call should be your loved one’s doctor, who may be the source of the original diagnosis. He or she will be happy to provide you with further information and will recommend any local support services and groups that may be helpful.
If your elderly relative has received their diagnosis through a memory clinic, staff will make sure that they are provided with links to support groups and local organisations that can offer help.
Organisations such as Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK can supply detailed information about dementia and point you in the direction of support groups. They will also be able to advise you of any local schemes that your loved one may benefit from, such as local Dementia cafes or sensory walks. You’ll find that there are lots of opportunities to meet up with other people with dementia, as well as carer support services too.
Connecting with other people who have recently been diagnosed, or are living with early-stage dementia can be particularly helpful, as it will reassure your relative that they are not alone. Local support groups are also an excellent source of further information, offering advice and support to anyone who is struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis.
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“The security and patience of live-in care has meant my mother has relaxed and her general disposition has improved to no end.”
Find out what help is available
Your relative’s doctor may offer a referral to their local social services department for an assessment of needs. If this is not automatically offered, you can arrange one by getting in touch with your loved one’s local council offices and asking for contact details for the social services department.
Anyone is entitled to a needs assessment, and there is no charge for the service, although any subsequent care plan put forward may need to be privately funded if your relative has savings above the designated threshold.
A needs assessment will identify areas in which your loved one requires help, as well as making recommendations for any changes that should be made to their home, if applicable. Your relative may be offered a budget to cover some, or all, of their needs, and this can be spent on social care services, or put towards private care if they prefer.
Thinking about the future
Knowing that they have dementia gives your loved one the opportunity to think about their future needs. This is a good time to put in place an Advance Statement, in which they set out their wishes. This gives friends, family and carers the opportunity to get to know their likes and dislikes, whether that’s the sort of television programmes they like to watch, the foods that they like best or the types of outings that they enjoy.
Reassure your relative that they won’t necessarily end up in institutional care. Elderly care at home, provided by one of the best live-in care agencies, Elder, is currently growing in popularity, as it enables older and vulnerable people to remain in the safe and familiar surroundings of their own home, even when they can no longer manage to live alone.
Live-in care means that a dedicated and empathetic carer moves into your loved one’s home and lives alongside them, providing a range of services that allow them to continue to enjoy an independent lifestyle without the disruption that a change of address would bring.
You can source 24/7 caregivers to provide everything from simple companion care, through to the complex demands of dementia care, where the carer may perform a range of personal duties, such as helping your loved one to bathe and dress.
Understand that it takes time to come to terms with the range of emotions and questions that a diagnosis of dementia brings, but rest assured that it doesn’t mean that your loved one’s life cannot still be full and active.
Tackled with care and sympathy, your loved one should soon realise that there is still plenty of enjoyment to be had from life and that their family and friends are on hand to offer emotional and practical support.